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March 20, 2024

How to Decline a Job Interview Professionally


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Like many others, Mark was feeling unsure about this potential job prospect and was wrapped up in a mental debate about how to decline a job interview. “I don’t think I want to go ahead with the interview. I am not interested in this job prospect,” Mark thought to himself after two days of vacillating about whether to attend the interview or not.

It is perfectly normal to decline a job interview. People halt job interviews for various reasons. Whether you’re a fresh graduate looking to spread your wings in the working world, a seasoned employee searching for greener pastures in a new company, or venturing into a new industry, it is not uncommon to pull the brakes before the interview. 

It is okay to decline a job interview if the reasons are right for you.
It is okay to decline a job interview if the reasons are right for you.

This article sets out to discuss reasons why people decline a job interview and several basic steps and pointers on how to decline a job interview. 

Why do People Reject Interviews?

There are several reasons why people decline interviews and here are some common examples:

Job Mismatch

Employment advertisements do not always present all the information about a job such as its scope and the required skills and experience for the position advertised. Although we should do our due diligence to understand what the work entails, we often shoot out our resumes and applications before aptly researching it, in the interest of time. Jobs that appear to be mismatched with our skills and experiences are one reason why interviews are halted. 

Our due diligence in researching the job vacancy and company can help us make better decisions in our job applications.
Our due diligence in researching the job vacancy and company can help us make better decisions in our job applications.

Unaligned Values

In the process of researching the new company, one may start to question if the company’s values align with theirs. Unaligned values may not necessarily be negative values, but just different ways of approaching work engagement. Examples of these could include a company culture that priorities completing the work before clocking out, creating an expectation to work late or over the weekends if required; a work culture that epitomises productivity over creative expression or vice versa; company traditions that emphasise participating in extra-work activities such as post-work dinners, and the like. When we can recognise the unaligned values sooner, we demonstrate our authentic selves by being true to our values and have peace about declining a job interview.

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Do read this article on insights into understanding company culture

Other Job Offers

While networking and recommendations can be powerful tools for landing a job, many job seekers also rely on actively submitting applications. An avid job seeker might send out five to ten applications per week, but it’s important to remember that this number can vary greatly depending on factors like industry, experience, and job market competition. According to Zippia, only about 22% of job applications lead to interviews. As hiring managers navigate a large pool of applications and shortlist candidates on different timelines, it’s not uncommon for job seekers to progress in interviews for one position while still waiting to hear back from others. In these situations, declining an interview offer becomes perfectly understandable.

Personal Reasons

Unforeseen personal challenges, such as family emergencies, health issues, or relationship crises, often result in a shift of priorities and unanticipated setbacks. These unavoidable factors may necessitate a reassessment of one’s circumstances. Depending on the individual job seeker’s needs and goals, opting to decline an interview can be a strategic choice to better navigate through challenging situations.

Red Flags in the Company

Sometimes a deeper dive into researching a company may unwittingly uncover red flags that could save you a lot of potential heartache and stress. Although every company will have its fair share of ups and downs, as well as idiosyncrasies in the form of policies or personnel, some red flags are downright unacceptable and should be avoided at all costs. 

Examples of these red flags include inconsistent salary payouts, toxic leadership, exploitative work demands, unsafe and unhealthy working environment (the physical space, and how staff are treated on a day-to-day basis), an unusually high turnover rate of new staff, and unethical dealings that may put them in trouble with the law. With adequate research or testimonials garnered from previous staff, you may be in a better position to decline an interview. 

Red flags are helpful indicators that this isn't the job for you. It saves you a great deal of stress in future to do a bit more research before applying for a job. 
Red flags are helpful indicators that this isn’t the job for you. It saves you a great deal of stress in future to do a bit more research before applying for a job. 

Clarity on Personal Goals and Vision

As you discover different job opportunities, you may gain more clarity on your personal goals. The journey of searching for work will help you refocus your vision and decision on what you truly desire to do. It is understandable to have a change of mind and heart as you become more acquainted with your refined sense of direction. Saying no to an interview that doesn’t align with your personal goals and vision is the right thing to do.

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Is it Wrong to Reject Job Interviews?

It is not wrong to reject a job interview. Rejecting a job interview for the right reasons will do a service to you and the hiring manager. In this way, both parties can move closer to their respective goals. It is crucial to have clarity on your reasons for rejecting an interview. Only then you can make that call with confidence. 

Companies will appreciate your honesty and timeliness in declining your job interview so that they can prioritise other candidates on the list. 
Companies will appreciate your honesty and timeliness in declining your job interview so that they can prioritise other candidates on the list. 

Unlike declining a job offer, a job interview has no strings attached. No significant rapport has been built with the hiring manager or company yet, no investments, resources or costs have been expended on you in the recruitment process. However, be mindful that if you do reject an interview, there may be little to no room to overturn that decision shortly after you have declined. 

While rejecting an interview may not seem as guilt-wrenching as it sounds, here are several pointers to consider, ensuring you reject your interview ethically and professionally.

How to Decline a Job Interview?

Timeliness. Whether it’s your first, shortlist, or follow-up interview, timely communication is crucial to save everyone’s time. Declining sooner is ideal, but ensure careful consideration for clarity on your reasons. Demonstrating thoughtful deliberation is important. The hiring manager may perceive an abrupt cancellation as a lack of seriousness. A last-minute one signals unprofessionalism and disrespect for their time.

In writing or by phone. In the age of instant messaging, resist the urge to withdraw from an interview hastily. Using social media for serious communication can be unprofessional. Send a professionally written email and follow up with a phone call if there’s rapport with the hiring manager. If your job search communication is via instant messaging, use it to notify them of your decision to decline the interview, mentioning the email.

To be professional, send an email followed by a phone call to the hiring manager to decline your job interview. 
To be professional, send an email followed by a phone call to the hiring manager to decline your job interview. 

Keep it concise. Being concise enhances clarity. Unlike declining a job offer, a job interview lacks significant investment from both parties. Numerous online templates and examples of how to decline a job interview are available. can assist in crafting your message.

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Letter Templates to decline a job interview

Here are a few email or letter template examples:

Example 1:

“Dear [Hiring manager’s name], 

I truly appreciate your response to my job application and scheduling an interview with me. Due to a change in my circumstances, I have to humbly decline the job interview. I wish you and your good company the best in finding the right candidate for this position.

Thank you and best regards,

[Your name]”


Example 2:
“Dear [Hiring manager’s name], 

Thank you very much for looking into my job application and inviting me to an interview. However, after some deliberation, I have decided to decline the interview and job opportunity at your good company for personal reasons. I hope you find the right candidate for this position. 

Thank you and best regards,

Best regards,
[Your name]”


Example 3:
“Dear [Hiring manager’s name], 

I would like to personally thank you for the first round of interviews at your good company. I am honoured to be shortlisted as a candidate for the position being advertised. However, having given it some thought I have decided not to pursue this job application. I would like to withdraw from the upcoming interview scheduled on [day / month / year / time].

My sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused by your scheduling. I hope you find the right candidate for the job.

Thank you and best regards,

Best regards,
[Your name]”

Conclusion

Your approach to declining an interview reflects your ethics, values, and professionalism, potentially benefiting your future endeavours. Thoughtful consideration is crucial in navigating your job search. Understand yourself, your circumstances, and your goals. While these may evolve, they guide your decisions as you search for the ideal job.

If you are looking for coaching advice on how to assess your skill sets and capabilities to find your ideal career match, or if you are just looking for more tips on how to decline a job interview, reach out to us now.